“The Call of the Wild,” the latest adaptation of the classic Jack London novel, is inconsistent with its tone and only truly works at the very end.
The film follows Buck the dog, who goes on an adventure after he is dognapped by two settlers from his family home in California and is shipped to the Yukon to be sold off as a sled dog. Directed by Chris Sanders, the film is a completely harmless yet slightly charming dog adventure film that has just enough interesting characters, suspense and violence to make up for its obviously CGI animals and over-the-top villain.
One of the film’s problems is the fact that every animal in the film, from the lead character Buck to a deer in the wilderness, is completely rendered in CGI. This takes away some of the film’s tension and emotional moments because the animals are too expressive to be taken seriously, or do not blend in well to the real world environments. However, the computer graphics are not always noticeable, and the film has enough beautiful cinematography and invested performances to make the fairly simple yet effective story thoroughly interesting.
“The Call of the Wild” starts with a pretty uninteresting look into the privileged life of Buck before the story changes a few times rapidly with Buck being kidnapped, abused and sold into a sled dog team. The slightly out-of-nowhere tonal changes eventually even out once the story of Buck in a sled dog mail carrier team comes into the mix. Yet the film still takes nearly every opportunity to be emotionally manipulative throughout. Harrison Ford gives a very good performance as John Thoryon who is dealing with his own issues and prefers to be alone in his own ways. On the other hand, Dan Stevens’s villain Hal is so thoroughly over the top that it becomes almost unintentionally funny at points. Furthermore, “The Call of the Wild” does go in several dark directions involving the abuse of animals that contribute to the film’s otherwise inconsistent storytelling.
The first half of the film takes its dog characters on a massive adventure that involves delivering mail across multiple lands. The film’s second half is far less impressive due to the story having a predictable ending. The only portion or the film’s second half that truly works is Buck bonding with the wolf pack, because it is one of the rare moments that doesn’t feel designed to play with the emotions of the audience. The film takes a lot of opportunities to add tension in an otherwise fairly predictable story by putting the human and animal characters in danger that is resolved moments later.
Lastly, “The Call of the Wild” makes up for its lackluster moments with an ending that is both slightly surprising yet thoroughly well defined. Overall, “The Call of the Wild ” is a pretty interesting yet emotionally manipulative book adaptation with enough good performances and storylines to make up for it’s over the top villain and distracting CGI elements. For me, “The Call of the Wild a six and a half out of 10.